Your generator won’t keep running to power the items you need most during a construction project, power outage, or other times you require power and don’t have access to electric hookups.
A RYOBI generator won’t stay running when it is overloaded, low on engine oil, has a plugged spark arrestor, or isn’t getting sufficient air, fuel, and spark.
This may be due to a plugged air filter, plugged fuel filter, clogged fuel line, dirty carburetor, dirty spark plug, insufficient oil level, or trying to power more items than the load limit can handle.
Always follow the safety precautions provided in the RYOBI operator’s manual. This includes removing the spark plug wire and waiting for the engine to cool before performing repairs.
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Follow all safety instructions provided in your equipment operator’s manual before diagnosing, repairing, or operating. Consult a professional if you don’t have the skills, or knowledge or are not in the condition to perform the repair safely.
6 Reasons a RYOBI Generator Starts But Won’t Stay Running
1. Too Much Load for the Generator Size
Your generator may shut down and not stay running when you attempt to power more items than the generator can handle. RYOBI generators vary in the load size they can handle.
You will find the load size listed on the generator. There will be a number listed for running watts and a number for starting watts.
Starting watts are is the extra watts your generator is able to handle for a few seconds when starting the item(s). The running watts is the amount of watts that generator is able to handle to maintain running the item(s)
When you attempt to power more items than the generator’s starting or running load limit, it won’t continue to run.
SOLUTION: To make sure you don’t plug in too many items, check out the load limit listed on the generator. Then check the wattage requirements of all of the items you are attempting to run at one time.
Add up the wattage requirements of the items you are running at one time. The wattage for the items must add up to less than the generator’s load limit.
Follow these tips to determine the wattage capacity:
- You will find the wattage of most electrical items listed on a tag attached to the item.
- Some motors require additional wattage to start an item. In this case, the starting wattage should be used when calculating starting wattage requirements.
- Add the wattage of all items that will be plugged into the generator at one time to get a total.
- This total wattage must be less than the generator’s wattage compacity.
2. Lack of Air
When looking for an air restriction, check that air is able to move through the air intake and is not being restricted by a closed choke or plugged air filter.
Plugged Air Filter
An air filter is used as protection for the engine by keeping dirt from being pulled into the air intake. Just a small amount of dirt can cause wearing and permanent engine damage.
The air filter can become plugged with dirt when it isn’t regularly cleaned and kept in good condition. The engine may not be able to get enough air to keep running.
SOLUTION: Remove the filter and inspect its condition. Replace the filter with a new one when the filter is damaged or very dirty. Clean it if it is in overall good condition, but just a little dirty.
Incorrect Choke Setting
The choke is required when starting a cold engine. When the engine warms, the choke lever must be adjusted from the on/closed position to the off/open position to allow more air into the carburetor throat.
If the engine shuts down right after starting, It may be due to an incorrect choke setting or the choke may be stuck in the closed position. Make sure the choke lever is in the correct position.
If the choke lever is correct and you’re running into airflow issues, check the choke to make sure it isn’t stuck in the closed position. Use carburetor cleaner to free up a stuck choke so it opens and closes.
3. Lack of Fuel
There are several reasons why a RYOBI generator won’t get sufficient fuel to the engine for combustion.
Empty Fuel Tank
While an empty fuel tank is an obvious reason why a generator won’t stay running, you may have overlooked checking the tank.
You may have a bad fuel gauge or have developed a fuel leak that you didn’t realize the tank was empty.
SOLUTION: Add fresh fuel to the tank. Fix any fuel leaks and replace a bad fuel gauge if you find either of these problems.
Old fuel can leave behind varnish and deposits that may keep the engine from getting enough fuel to keep running.
SOLUTION: Drain the old fuel from the fuel tank. A fuel siphon pump works well for this.
Mix fresh fuel with a fuel additive like Sea Foam or STA-BIL in an approved gas container. These additives are used to keep gas stable longer and reduce moisture in the fuel system.
Add the gas mixture to the fuel tank. Start the generator and allow it to run to work the treated fuel through the fuel system. Read this article for more information on choosing the right gas to minimize fuel-related problems.
The carburetor regulates the amount of fuel that is mixed with air for combustion. Over time, old gas can leave a coating that causes the carburetor to stop functioning properly so the engine doesn’t receive the gas it requires to keep running.
SOLUTION: When this happens, the RYOBI carburetor must be removed from the generator and cleaned using carburetor cleaner to remove the crusty buildup left behind by old fuel. I find it best to take photos as I take apart a carburetor so it is reassembled right.
If you don’t want to tackle cleaning the carburetor or you can’t get it cleaned and working again, replace it with a new one or have a small engine repair mechanic clean or replace a carburetor.
Using fresh fuel and not letting it sit in your generator for long periods of time can help minimize the negative effects of old fuel on your RYOBI Generator.
Plugged Fuel Tank Vent
The fuel tank must be able to vent to allow air to move in and out of the fuel tank to equalize the air pressure. When the fuel tank vent becomes plugged, the fuel tank will form a vacuum as fuel is consumed and the air isn’t able to get into the tank.
This vacuum will prevent fuel from getting to the carburetor causing the generator to run sluggishly and shut off.
The fuel tank vent may be built into the gas cap or it may be a part installed on top of the fuel tank on the RYOBI generator. If the generator shuts down and won’t start until you loosen the cap, you may have a fuel tank vent problem.
SOLUTION: Replace the fuel tank vent.
4. Lack of Spark
Bad Spark Plug
A fouled spark plug can cause an intermittent spark that may cause the engine to run sluggishly and die. In addition to a bad spark plug, loose spark plug wires or an incorrect electrode gap can also cause this problem.
SOLUTION: Clean a dirty spark plug using a wire brush. However, if you find the spark plug is damaged, worn, or very dark in color, you must replace it with a new spark plug.
Bad Ignition Coil
The ignition coil can separate and short out when the generator gets hot. This will result in the spark plug not being able to create a spark because it isn’t getting the voltage it needs.
First, make sure the spark plug is in good condition. Next, check the continuity.
SOLUTION: Replace it if you find a break in the continuity.
5. Low Engine Oil Level
Most RYOBI generators have a sensor that will cause the engine to shut down when the engine oil level is low. This is a safety feature to protect the engine from the damaging effects of running an engine with insufficient oil.
If your generator shuts off and the low oil light is on, first check that the generator is placed on a flat-level surface. Setting the generator on uneven ground can set off the sensor.
SOLUTION: Once you have verified the generator is positioned correctly, check the engine oil level using the oil dipstick attached to the oil cap.
Remove the oil cap. Wipe off the dipstick with a clean cloth. Replace the dipstick and cap and remove it to read the oil level on the dipstick. (Don’t screw the cap back on when you are taking an oil level reading).
When you find the level is too low, add oil until it is at the correct level according to the dipstick.
If you find you have the correct engine oil level and the low oil sensor light stays on, you may have a faulty sensor. Contact your local RYOBI generator dealer to support.
6. Plugged Spark Arrestor
You will find a small spark arrestor screen on the muffler that prevents hot exhaust material from blowing out of the exhaust. This screen is required to reduce burns and prevent fires.
When the hot air from the engine isn’t able to exhaust because of a plugged spark arrestor screen, it will bog down and may shut off.
SOLUTION: Remove the spark arrestor screen and clean it using a solvent or a small metal brush. If you find it has a hole in it or is damaged, it must be replaced with a new screen.